The French armed forces numbered approximately 250,000 troops regular armed forces in June 2010. This made it the largest military force in Europe and the 14th largest in the world by number of troops. The Commander-in-Chief is the President of the Republic. On 31 July 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered a wide-ranging review of French defence which lead to a new White Paper in May 2008, proposing to create a smaller and more mobile army, with a strong emphasis on intelligence.
As of April 2012, French forces invovled in diffrent operations in the world were composed of 7000 soldiers. Click here for an interactive deployment map.
As of May 2012 France contributed 1,398 personnel to the following UN peace operations:
Source: UN Peacekeeping, Monthly Summary of Contributors of Military and Civilian Personnel
- UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO)
- UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
- UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO)
- UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO)
- UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)
- UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI)
- UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
ISAF: The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has been created in accordance with the Bonn Conference in December 2001. NATO assumes leadership of ISAF operations under a Security Council mandate since 11 August 2003. ISAF aims at assisting the Afghan Government in exercising and extending its authority and influence across the country. France contributed 3,308 soldiers as of May 2012.
- KFOR: The NATO-led Kosovo Force has been leading a peace support operation in Kosovo since UN Security Council Resolution 1244 was adopted on 10 June 1999. Following the declaration of independence on 17 February 2008, the Alliance reaffirmed that KFOR shall remain in Kosovo, unless the United Nations Security Council decides otherwise. KFOR cooperates with and assists the UN, the EU, and other international actors, to support the development of a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic and peaceful Kosovo. As of May 2012 France contributed 307 soldiers .
Ongoing military operations:
- EUFOR - Operation ALTHEA: On 2 December 2004 the European Union launched Operation ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the decision by NATO to conclude its Stabilisation Force Mission (SFOR). According to Security Council resolution 1575 (2004), the role of the European mission is to provide a military presence in order to contribute to the safe and secure environment, deny conditions for a resumption of violence and manage any residual aspect of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in accordance with the Paris-Dayton agreements. The role of the Althea operation is to stabilise peace in Bosnia, in accordance with the Paris-Dayton agreements, through the establishment of a multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR). EUFOR is the legal successor to SFOR, the previous stabilisation force of NATO in Bosnia.
- EU NAVFOR Somalia - Operation Atalanta: On 10 November 2008, the EU Council adopted a joint action establishing a military operation consisting in the deployment of a naval force off the coast of Somalia in support of United Nations Security Council Resolutions pertaining to the fight against piracy in Somalia (resolutions 1814, 1816, 1838, 1846 and 1851). Operation EUNAVFOR reached its Initial Operational Capability on 13 December 2008 and Full Operational Capability in February 2009. This operation, which is the first EU maritime operation, is conducted in the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).On 14 June 2010, the Council of the EU decided to extend the Operation's mandate for another two years until 12 December 2012.
Ongoing civilian operations:
- EULEX Kosovo: The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo works under the general framework of United Nations Security Resolution 1244. It replaced the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in December 2008. It aims at assistsing and supporting the Kosovo authorities in the rule of law area, specifically in the police, judiciary and customs areas.
: The EU Police Mission was launched on 1 January 2003 to replace the UN’s International Police Task Force (IPTF) in Bosnia and Herzegovina for an initial period of three years. EUPM was the first CSDP mission launched by the EU. In line with the general objectives of the Paris-Dayton Agreement, the goal of the mission is to inspect and monitor police operations, provide support to the police reform process and consolidate local capacity and regional cooperation in the fight against organised crime. On 8 December 2009, the Council of the EU has decided to extend the operation until 31 December 2011.
- EUSEC DR Congo : The European Union mission to provide advice and assistance for security sector reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was launched on 8 April 2005. Its mandate has been extended several times and runs until 30 September 2010. It aims at providing practical support to the Congolese Government for the integration of the Congolese army and good governance in the field of security.
- OSCEBIH: The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina began its work in December 1995. It strengthens security and stability in the region through completion of peace-building activities such as promoting the development of democratic political institutions, democratization, education, human rights and security co-operation.
- EUFOR-RD CONGO: 1,000 troops were sent to the DRC between July and November 2006 within the EU mission EUFOR-RD CONGO, the objectives of which were to support the MONUC, protect the civilian population and secure elections. Operation EUFOR RD Congo was successfully concluded on 30 November 2006.
- EUFOR Tchad/CAR: According to Security Council Resolution 1778 (2008) the deployment of a multidimensional UN presence was authorised in eastern Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic. France was particularly involved in this operation and provided 50% of its military personnel. The mandate of this European force ended in March 2009 with the transfer of authority to MINURCAT.
Sources: Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations in New York, Peace Keeping Operations; Council of the European Union, European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP)
France is engaged in 10 bilateral military cooperation. The biggest missions are as follows:
- Forces Françaises à Djibouti: In accordance with the 1977 Defence Agreement 2,800 French troops stay in Djibouti, France's largest overseas military base. They are pre-positioned and ensure the security of French nationals, cooperate with regional organisations to maintain stability in the region and provide Djiboutian armed forces with logistical, medical and intelligence support.
- Forces Françaises du Cap-Vert (FFCV): In accordance with the 1974 Defence Agreement, Senegal provides a base for 1200 French forces pre-positioned in Dakar. The French troops defend Senegal's integrity, develop military cooperation with Senegalese armed forces and support the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS).
- Implantation militaire française aux Emirats arabes unis (IMFEAU): The IMFEAU has been inaugurated in Abu Dhabi on 26 May 2009. Starting from September 2009, 250 French troops are pre-positioned in the United Arab Emirates, ready to support other French forces deployed in the Gulf and northern Indian Ocean. Armed forces of both countries aim at developing bilateral military cooperation as well as training.
- Troupes Françaises au Gabon: In accordance with the Defence and Military Cooperation Agreements of 1960 2,800 French troops stay in Libreville, deployed as standing "mission de présence". They ensure the security of French nationals, and cooperate with Gabonese armed forces.
For more information on other bilateral missions, please click each mission.
- Boali Operation: 420 French troops are located in Central African Republic within the framework of the Boali Operation. The objective of this operation is to support the military forces of the Central African Republic as well as the international force of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa.
- Epervier Operation: France maintains a presence in Chad with the Epervier mission established in February 1986 in order to restore peace and preserve the territorial integrity of Chad in accordance with a bilateral cooperation agreement. In 2008, France was able to help with the stationing of the European force (EUROFOR Chad) and the transfer to MINURCAT in 2009. The Epervier Operation numbers 1,200 troops.
- Licorne Operation: France is present in Côte d'Ivoire since the Licorne Operation was launched in 2002. Today the objective of the operation is to support the UN Mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) to promoting a safe environment. It also aims at ensuring the security of French and foreign nationals. As of mid-2009, the force numbers 900 soldiers (down from 1,800 at the beginning of 2009).
For a list of operations click here.
For analysis of French military policy in Africa, see, for example, S. Gregory, "The French Military in Africa: Past and Present", African Affairs (2000), 99, pp. 435-448.
Last updated: May 2012